Call for Papers: Special Issue “AI in the Public Sector” in PMR

AI in the public sector

PMR Special Issue call for papers

Guest editors

This special issue will be edited by an experienced team comprising Professor Helen Dickinson (University of New South Wales, Australia), Professor Ines Mergel (University of Konstanz, Germany),  and Professor Jari Stenvall (Tampere University, Finland).


This special issue will provide a resource to academics and practitioners working within the field of public management and public services. It will take stock of where the field is so far with AI, offer empirical insights and then develop signposts where the field of public management needs to go next with respect to this technology. It will delineate what it is we already know about this area, clarify terminology, set out the major areas of debate and provide helpful guidance around implementation for those working in a public management context. 

This special issue will focus on implementation and public service management-related issues. The public management academic community has often failed to give sufficient attention to aspects of technological change. AI provides an opportunity to rethink public service delivery and co-production models. The public management literature can offer some helpful insights into guiding the role that governments play in overseeing these technologies. The intention is that this special issue should play an important role in doing this with respect to AI technologies. The end product will seek to set out what is known about this topic and where the major gaps in the knowledge base reside. 

AI is interesting from the perspective that it is a new tool for those in the public management space to draw on and proponents argue that it will have a number of important impacts on the design and delivery of a range of public services. AI has the potential to drive efficiencies in areas of public services such as surgery and traffic management. The attraction of AI is that it is able analyze information faster than humans, at lower cost potentially creating new service models.

We also know that there will be a number of unanticipated or unintended consequences as a result of the use of these technologies. Indeed, much of the current scholarship surrounding this concept relates to potential challenges that may arise as a result of the use of AI. However, these technologies also have the potential to have an impact on public management and public managers in other interesting ways. AI applications may fundamentally change the work of public managers and public servants. By automating services and offering proactive public service delivery, AI has the potential to free up human capacity for complex decision making processes that require interaction between different types of human decision makers. Applications of AI technologies may also fundamentally alter organizational routines. While some consideration has been given to how AI might replace humans, automating aspects of service delivery, for example through the use of chat bots, arguably more interesting areas of focus for public managers resides in how AI will augment the skills and capabilities of humans and how they will work alongside one another. As with all technologies the challenge is not controlling the technology, rather it is controlling the people who control the technology.

Paper topics sought

This special issue calls for papers that fill the above gaps by asking for papers to be submitted that provide evidence of failures and successes in the implementation of these technologies.  There are some papers in this space already that are largely normative or which do not offer empirical data and these are not the core target of this call. We are seeking empirical papers that do not just describe AI initiatives, but are evaluative and build on this evidence. We are open to the submission of literature reviews, but only where they substantially develop existing thinking or integrate literature from a range of different fields and make this relevant to a public management audience.  We welcome case studies or large scale survey studies that explore the use of AI from a Public Management perspective dealing with issues such as the governance and/or management of AI, how AI is changing public management practices and the work of public managers. These cases may include, but are not limited to, how AI supports decision making in services (e.g., emergency management, health, police, defence), how AI is used to create citizen-centric services, the implications of AI for the capabilities and capacities of the public service workforce, and how other stakeholders influence the adoption of AI in the public  sector. We therefore welcome studies from a range of fields and cross-disciplinary studies, which make contributions to the public management understanding of AI.

Topics may include, but are not limited  to:

  • The implementation of AI as a public management task
  • The ethics and risk governance of AI and algorithms in public management implementation
  • Linking AI implementation, evaluation and the political agenda
  • The behavioural impacts of AI – e.g. on motivation, trust, etc.
  • Comparative studies across different public service fields

Authors are welcome to send emails to the editorial team to check if a submission is in scope for this call.


15th June 2020: PMR open call for special issue

31st December 2020: Submission of article manuscripts to PMR special issue editors

1st March 2021: First review of papers complete. Authors informed about acceptance, necessary revisions or rejection

1st June 2021: Resubmission of articles (2nd ms version)

1st August 2021: Second review of (revised) papers complete

1st October 2021: Resubmission of articles (3rd ms version)

1st December 2021: Electronic publication of articles

2022: Hard copy publication

Published by Ines Mergel

I am Full Professor of Public Administration at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at University of Konstanz, Germany. Previously, I served as Assistant and then Associate Professor (with tenure) at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, NY. In my research, I focus on informal social networks in the public sector and the adoption and diffusion of digital service innovations in government organizations. I teach classes on social media management, digital government, innovation management and public management.

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